Editorial: Labor rule boosts union transparency
Mixing power with a lack of accountability is a recipe for corruption. So the U.S. Department of Labor’s new rule to increase union transparency is a good thing. This seems especially relevant with the recent federal charges that have rocked United Auto Workers' leadership.
Published last week by the department’s Office of Labor Management Standards, the rule requires unions raking in $250,000 or more to file annual financial reports concerning their trusts and financial transactions, ensuring unions’ accountability to rank and file members.
That’s good news for Michigan workers, especially UAW members betrayed by their former president, Gary Jones, who is set to plead guilty in federal court to charges of embezzlement, racketeering and tax evasion.
“Full disclosure of trust operations gives workers the information they need to make informed choices, and more information means better decisions,” said Director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards Arthur Rosenfeld in a statement. “This rule will increase financial transparency, encourage responsible union democracy and foster accountability of union officials.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, a ranking member of the subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, says this rule will go a long way toward putting unions back on the straight and narrow.
“Workers expect that their dues are going to go to serve the purposes that best fit their needs — like negotiations and contract issues,” Walberg says. “When you find out that [UAW leaders] have abused those dollars for other purposes, including cigars, lake houses and the like — this is an affront to the rank and file.
“The beauty about this DOL rule is that it would produce audits that are ongoing.”
Aside from enabling union members to see if their leadership is stealing or misusing dues money, the rule will also help union members see if their dues go to political causes they don’t agree with.
This has been a problem with teachers unions, Walberg says.
“There have been development programs funded by workers’ dues that have gone to left-wing organizations and groups that many rank-and-file workers don’t agree with,” he notes.
That information is vital for conscientious workers, especially in a right-to-work state like Michigan where union membership is optional.
A former steel worker and union member himself, Walberg says his father helped organize the steel workers. But he sees room for improvement in how unions operate.
At the end of the day, union bosses should be no different from any other elected officials. They should be elected on their merits and held accountable by their constituents.
Hats off to the Labor Department for standing up for workers’ best interests.